Attention upper-middle class white women: help save poor Indian women from a life of forced prostitution, all from the comfort of your hammock! Simply purchase some comfy, trendy pants.

(Image from International Princess Project, the organization behind Punjammies)

Aliyah C. wrote to us about a series of photos on a website for a product called Punjammies. The images offer a stark illustration of the racial, classed, and gendered nature of many “development” initiatives.

According to their website, Punjammies claims to offer Indian women who have escaped forced prostitution a chance to rebuild their lives by providing them with the marketable skill of manufacturing clothing.

Images in the Punjammies catalogue make it clear who the target market is: They feature exclusively white women, luxuriously lounging about in Punjammies attire.

Meanwhile, images on the “About” page depict the women purportedly empowered by this operation, conducting manual labour to produce Punjammies products.

Consumerism-driven development initiatives like Punjammies fail to challenge the inherent inequalities at play in a situation where wealthy, white women in the developed world are seen as benevolent and charitable for making a purchase, while women in developing countries manufacturing the products are portrayed as beneficiaries. Furthermore, as Barbara Heron might argue, Punjammies is a prime example of how development initiatives often play into notions of white female subjectivity as compassionate and caring, dependent upon the Othering of women of colour in the south.  In fact, since colonialism, the advantages that accrue to those of us in developed countries have been linked to the disadvantages faced by the rest of the world. Our economies are not separate entities, they are intimately linked.

Reflecting upon images like these should remind us to remain critical of the ways in which “development” is marketed to us, and how it can perpetuate rather than challenge inequalities.

 

Reference: Heron, B. (2007). Desire for Development: Whiteness, Gender and the Helping Imperative. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press.

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Hayley Price has a background in sociology, international development studies, and education. She recently completed her Masters degree in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

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